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Zimbabwe Elections: President Mnangagwa’s quest for re-election

As Zimbabwe prepares for the upcoming elections, the country once again finds itself grappling with deep-rooted issues such as high inflation, poverty, and a climate of fear. President Emmerson Mnangagwa, popularly known as “the crocodile,” seeks re-election amidst growing dissent and scepticism. While he promises a fresh start for the nation, many Zimbabweans question whether he can truly deliver on his pledges.

Mnangagwa’s rise to power was not without controversy. Following a military takeover and mass protests in 2017, he succeeded Robert Mugabe, the long-time ruler and Mnangagwa’s former mentor. The military intervention was sparked by Mugabe’s decision to dismiss Mnangagwa as his vice-president, a move that ignited public outrage.

Zimbabwe Elections: President Mnangagwa's quest for re-election
President Emmerson Mnangagwa | AP Photo

However, Mnangagwa’s association with the ruling party and his involvement in past atrocities raise concerns about his suitability for re-election. Throughout his political career, he has accumulated a reputation for being politically cunning and ruthless, earning him the moniker “the crocodile.” Some of his former comrades from the liberation struggle have described him as a “very cruel man.”

Despite the negative perceptions, Mnangagwa’s family holds a different perspective. His children view him as a principled, albeit unemotional, figure. Farai Mlotshwa, his daughter and a successful property developer, even referred to him as a “softie,” offering a glimpse into the private persona of a man often associated with power and brutality.

Mnangagwa’s supporters argue that his tenure in office has brought about positive changes. They highlight the mining boom and increased foreign investments as proof of his ability to revive Zimbabwe’s economy. However, critics argue that these perceived successes fail to address the root causes of the country’s problems, such as escalating inflation and widespread poverty.

Furthermore, the climate of fear that still permeates Zimbabwe raises doubts about the credibility of the upcoming elections. Reports of political violence and intimidation have emerged, suggesting that the ruling party may resort to unfair tactics in order to secure Mnangagwa’s re-election. These allegations undermine the democratic process and cast a shadow of doubt over the legitimacy of the election results.

In light of these concerns, Zimbabweans face a pivotal decision as they prepare to cast their votes. They must carefully consider whether Mnangagwa’s promises of a brighter future outweigh the lingering doubts surrounding his leadership.

The upcoming elections may determine the trajectory of the nation, either propelling it towards genuine progress or prolonging the cycle of instability and uncertainty.

In his efforts to attract international investors and change his ruthless image in 2018, he proclaimed, “I possess a gentle disposition. My character is tender and compassionate.”

After facing defeat in the initial round of the presidential election against his long-standing adversary Morgan Tsvangirai, widespread violence was unleashed by the military and state security organizations targeting opposition supporters. Tragically, this resulted in the loss of numerous lives and the displacement of thousands from their homes.

Consequently, Mr. Tsvangirai opted out of participating in the second round, leading to Mr. Mugabe’s re-election.

Ice cream plot: A Bizarre Twist in Zimbabwe’s Political Landscape

Zimbabwe Elections: President Mnangagwa's quest for re-election
A supporter of Zimbabwe’s ruling party ZANU PF holds up an election campaign poster during a rally addressed by party president Emmerson Mnangagwa.

The world of politics is no stranger to intrigue and drama, but few plots are as peculiar as the one involving ice cream and Zimbabwean power struggles. The story begins with the rivalry between former first lady Grace Mugabe and her husband’s right-hand man, Mr Mnangagwa. As Grace Mugabe’s ambition grew, she sought to edge Mnangagwa out of the political arena. However, their rivalry took a bizarre turn when Mnangagwa fell ill in 2017 at a political rally led by none other than Mugabe himself.

What followed was a wave of speculation and accusations. Mnangagwa’s supporters suggested that a rival group within the ruling Zanu-PF party had poisoned him. And oddly enough, they seemed to blame ice cream from Mrs Mugabe’s dairy firm for the alleged poisoning. While this might sound like the plot of a far-fetched novel, it became a significant part of the political narrative in Zimbabwe.

Mnangagwa himself referenced this ice cream plot, adding fuel to the already heated rivalry between the two factions. He also blamed a group linked to the former first lady for an explosion at a Zanu-PF rally in Bulawayo, where two people lost their lives. The tensions between the supporters of Mnangagwa and the Mugabe family continued even after the death of Robert Mugabe in 2019.

When Mugabe passed away, President Mnangagwa requested that he be interred at the national Heroes Acre burial ground, a place of honor for Zimbabwean heroes. However, Mrs Mugabe refused, further highlighting the deep-seated animosity between the two sides.

While the ice cream plot might seem like a bizarre and isolated incident, it is essential to understand the context of Zimbabwe’s political landscape. Mnangagwa assumed power after Mugabe’s forced resignation in 2017, promising economic reforms and a move away from the country’s troubled past.

His efforts on the economic front have been cautiously welcomed by some businesses. Since 2017, Zimbabwe’s GDP has seen a modest increase, rising from $17.5 billion to an average of $25.31 billion. The government has also attracted significant investment, primarily in the mining sector. Platinum giant Zimplats, for instance, has committed to investing $1.8 billion over the next decade following negotiations with the government.

In a project that aimed to honor African icons rather than British ones, the Zimbabwean government, under President Emmerson Mnangagwa, renamed 10 streets in 2019. This move has garnered widespread support from the president’s loyal followers, who are confident about his place in the history books. However, critics argue that the majority of changes implemented by President Mnangagwa have failed to benefit the ordinary people of Zimbabwe.

President Mnangagwa’s decision to rename the streets was met with enthusiasm and applause from his supporters. By honoring African icons, he sought to celebrate the nation’s rich cultural heritage and assert Zimbabwe’s independence from its colonial past. The renaming project aimed to evoke a sense of national pride and unity among citizens.

However, critics argue that this initiative is merely symbolic and fails to address the pressing issues facing Zimbabwe. They contend that the government should prioritize economic reforms and measures to alleviate widespread poverty, rampant unemployment, and skyrocketing inflation rates.

Zimbabwe continues to face severe economic challenges, with one of the highest inflation rates globally. Prices soared by 101.3% in July compared to the previous year, burdening citizens and exacerbating their financial struggles. Unemployment remains a pressing issue, with only 25% of Zimbabweans holding formal employment. These dire economic conditions have left many skeptical about the government’s ability to effect meaningful change.

Human Rights Concerns

A supporter of Zimbabwe's ruling party ZANU PF holds up an election campaign poster during a rally addressed by party president Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Supporters of Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa are seen at a campaign rally in Harare Aug. 9. (AP/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Despite his promises to ensure human rights, President Mnangagwa’s administration has done little to improve the overall human rights situation in Zimbabwe. Critics argue that the government’s actions are reminiscent of the oppressive policies employed during the tenure of former President Robert Mugabe.

Individuals who criticize President Mnangagwa or his government continue to face arrest and prosecution. Even expressing opinions deemed insulting to the president can lead to imprisonment, fines, or both. The arrest of opposition party members, such as the Citizens Coalition for Change, on fabricated charges further raises concerns about the erosion of democratic principles and freedom of expression.

The CCC, an opposition party, has faced numerous challenges since its formation. The police have allegedly banned several of its meetings and gatherings, hampering the party’s ability to engage with the public and gain traction ahead of elections. Additionally, in a recent incident, 40 CCC members, including a parliamentary candidate, were arrested while campaigning in the capital, Harare. The alleged killing of a CCC supporter by Zanu-PF supporters has exacerbated fears of political violence and further strained the relationship between the government and opposition.

International Outlook: A New Chapter for Zimbabwe’s Relations with the World

A supporter of Zimbabwe's ruling party ZANU PF holds up an election campaign poster during a rally addressed by party president Emmerson Mnangagwa.
German development minister Gerd Müller met Patrick Chinamasa who was Zimbabwe’s finance minister until September 2018Image: Imago/photothek

The recent removal of Robert Mugabe as Zimbabwe’s president has raised hopes for a new chapter in the country’s international outlook. Under the leadership of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe is seeking to rebuild its relationships with the West and regain its position within the international community.

One significant step in this process has been Zimbabwe’s application to rejoin the Commonwealth. The country had withdrawn from the organization in 2003 after being suspended due to human rights violations. However, last year, Zimbabwe received an encouraging assessment visit from the Commonwealth Secretariat, indicating that progress has been made towards rejoining the family of nations.

This positive development was further emphasized by the presence of a Commonwealth observer group during the recent elections in Zimbabwe. The observers deemed these elections as a crucial milestone in the country’s journey towards democratic governance.

While it is evident that Zimbabwe’s relations with the West are gradually improving, it is important to note that challenges remain. The nation is still subject to economic and travel sanctions imposed by the United States, as well as an arms embargo implemented by the European Union. These restrictions hinder Zimbabwe’s ability to fully participate in the global economy and impede the country’s prospects for development.

In response to these limitations, President Mnangagwa has sought to strengthen ties with other nations, particularly China and Russia. In fact, Zimbabwe has welcomed Chinese investment and Russian support in various sectors of its economy. Additionally, President Mnangagwa recently hosted Iran’s president for a state visit, during which both leaders emphasized their shared experience as “victims” of Western sanctions.

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